Traveling in the boat felt much faster (maybe because we didn’t have to constantly make sure we weren’t leaving anyone behind). Lydia told us what she knew about the skinny greenskins – which wasn’t much. Apparently they live here in the Astral Plain…but it’s hard for me to imagine any creature really belonging in this “which direction is up?” place.
Before long, a structure came into view. From a distance, it looked like a jack – with a central spherical hub and four towers coming off it like spokes. As we got closer, we could see each tower had a clear pyramid on top, looking in each direction…and one tower had a figure inside the pyramid. There was also a knobby thing like a chunk of rock connected to the hub.
We circled the place from a safe distance, sizing it up. Aliana said she definitely felt that the sword was inside, but couldn’t be sure of more than that. So we started the age-old debate about whether we could do this sneakily, or whether we would end up slaughtering another fortress full of enemies. Aliana seemed a bit shocked by that, but you’d think a paladin would understand the need to slaughter things – like demons.
We decided to try sneaky…not because it’s worked in the past, of course, but for the sake of it. Also just in case the long-haired greenies weren’t quite so squishy as they first appeared (they must have something to them, to survive in this treacherous place).
We parked the boat a safe distance away, and left Ezekiel’s portable hole tied to it. Continuing on “mind-feet,” we snuck up to the huge doors we’d noticed and – Ezekiel went and knocked before opening them and going in. (Like, either knock – then wait for your hosts – or don’t knock, and maintain your cover. Whatever. This is how we roll. It all worked out, anyway, because their look-out was deaf, I guess.)
Inside the hub, the room was spherical – with doors to the four towers spaced around in the cardinal directions (as close as makes no difference, anyway). One of the big bat-winged boats floated motionless on one side, with room for probably three more beside it…so the space was plenty big. Another pair of huge doors stood just opposite the entrance.
I’d been worried about how we would see in this place, but light doesn’t seem to be an issue. Outside, you can’t really tell where the light is coming from – the whole grey fog is just “visible” – and in the fortress, there aren’t really shadows or lamps or anything you’d expect in a “real” place. It’s not even like we’ve all been granted dark vision – we just can see, that’s all. I won’t begin to theorize how invisibility works here…I guess I should be glad I didn’t behave like Ezekiel’s bag, and turn into a blinding creature of light (though that would be kinda cool, too).
Anyway, Raven and I scouted out the towers (since you move by thinking, I didn’t even jingle my chainmail, unless I moved my arms or something…I felt like an unstoppable ghost. Good thing you don’t get gear like this while you’re a kid). The one figure we’d noticed was another green alien – but he was staring out into the surrounding space, and didn’t think to check for enemies behind him. I don’t know if there should have been sentries in the other towers or not – maybe they were on break or something. They certainly didn’t do their job.
Still pretending to be sneaky, we checked out the next door. Lydia said a wizard had locked it, but it didn’t affect her somehow because her mind was stronger or something. However, there was a bar across the door on the other side, and after Raven couldn’t get it unhooked, Lydia cast something off a scroll to send a ghost through to unlock it (no, that’s not how she explained it, but I like it my way. It makes Ezekiel twitch).
The doors opened into a tunnel with a couple doors, and a room on the far end. Raven opened one door – and suddenly we were in battle again. Three green aliens attacked us from that room – their long hair streaming and twisting in the weightless space. They wore splint mail and spun two-handed swords that sparkled whitely.
Once Raven, Aliana, and Ezekiel were engaged there, the opposite door opened, and an alien with a helmet stepped out – right into Tressarian, I’m pleased to say! Two guards from the end of the hall charged in the join the fray, and Heiron kicked off from the floor to intercept them (crashing into the ceiling, I’m afraid, but he was getting better).
The ones we fought on the boat must have been grunts, and these were officers. They knew how to handle their big swords, even in the more confined space, and they could take a lot of punishment. I don’t think they could see invisible things, though, so all I had to worry about was connecting with Tressarian.
Then all at once – there was a clang, and all the aliens snarled and grimaced and blinked like they were momentarily blinded. Heiron arrived to help me finish off the officer, and Lydia fired blast after shining blast from her staff. Finally, everything grew quiet, and all the enemies seemed dead…except for one, who floated quietly in the corner, watching Mikael’s every move.
The creatures apparently speak Common, since Mikael’s “friend” asked him who we were and what we wanted. When he said we wanted a special sword, she freaked out and said we must leave at once, for it is forbidden.
We started checking out the rooms…quarters, apparently, since they had chairs and chests bolted to the surfaces. The only interesting things were the arms and armor of the dead aliens.
Mikael’s friend seemed very anxious…and when he said, “But we need the sword to destroy -” she lost it and slashed at him. I guess it’s just as well…he hasn’t had great luck with girls in the past…
The captain’s quarters had a treasure room with a longsword in a scabbard. It glowed brightly when Raven drew it, but the decoration on the scabbard didn’t look like the work of Furiundy. Still, Aliana didn’t think it was Evil, so we took it along.
At the end of the hallway, another spherical room opened up – this one four other doors, and a tunnel leading “down” (from our perspective).
While Shakka was checking for traps, and Aliana was trying to get a better sense for where Fetafencer was, an alien stuck his head up from the tunnel – then fled. Ezekiel ordered a pursuit, charging into the “pit” himself. Raven and I followed him – all of us instinctively rotating so we were traveling along a hallway, rather than “falling” without gravity. (I like the structure, and having solid walls around us somehow helped to orient us…but at the same time it emphasizes the aimless nature of the place simply by its existence.)
We reached the far entrance of the hallway and found ourselves in a crowd of aliens. Raven raised his hand, his ring flashed, and fire exploded around me and a large portion of the enemy. I declare, I think Tressarian gave a little snicker… Most of the aliens shriveled to a crisp, and hung motionless and blackened in mid-air.
There were still plenty of things to fight, though. Aliana and I hammered away at a guy with sharp teeth and a helmet. Mikael hurled his handful of sticks into the room, and they started writhing as they turned into snakes and bumped into the aliens.
Ezekiel was chanting. Usin was waving his flaming sword around. All of us were buzzing around like so many hummingbirds, trying to concentrate as we used our minds to move in space and battle our enemies.
Just as the first group stopped moving, reinforcements came from passages to the side (below?) and we had to circle support pillars to fight back. Mikael tossed a pillar of fire into the middle of them, and one of the aliens seemed to have spells of his own that he hurled at Ezekiel.
It felt like a long time while we were in it, but finally our enemies were dead and we could collect ourselves. Raven was bleeding heavily – the blood drifted aimlessly as it leaked from his skin, making him look like a leafy tentacle monster. Ezekiel patched him up, and we went around yanking Aliana’s swords out of the walls (I guess she had trouble getting used to no gravity…she did figure it out eventually, though). The alien with the spells had spell components, and all the aliens had magic armor – and most had magic swords…but we still hadn’t found the particular sword we wanted.
So Lydia closed her eyes, and whispered something, and told us she thought Fettafenser was back the way we came. So we snicked the magic armor and dragged it after us to be handy when we were ready to leave.
Back in the spherical room, Lydia pointed out one of the other doors, and we went through…to discover a throneroom of sorts, with a gem-studded throne on a platform. Nobody was home, so we ignored the throne, and opened a locked door –
Somebody was waiting behind that one. A gout of flame spit out at us, and a tall alien wielding a huge, glowing, two-handed sword attacked us, his sword flashing silvery in…whatever light seems to grant vision in the Astral Plane.
This was truly a worthy opponent. He survived Raven’s fireball, shrugged off Mikael’s rope of tangling, ate a blow from Ezekiel’s mace and actually made Ezekiel freeze. Mikael took him down in the end. His one mistake was being outnumbered, I guess.
Inside his room, the shelves were burning, but that just revealed a secret compartment where Aliana spotted a longsword in a runed sheath. I’m not sure how she could tell, but she declared this was Fettafencer – mission accomplished (maybe because it’s a paladin sword or something). The alien commander also had some gems and jewelry in his stash that obviously he wouldn’t be needing anymore.
Raven discovered a strange glass window – you couldn’t see through it, but if you stood next to it long enough, it turned red. Ezekiel had everyone move to a safe distance except Aliana, and the two of them checked it out. Apparently it’s a magic window that reacts to living things, and once every pane is red, you can walk through it. Ez and Aliana found prison cells behind there – some ugly, shriveled arms tried to grab Ezekiel, but with his wife standing right beside him they didn’t succeed. Aliana says the creature in there was Evil, since Fettafenser glowed red.
They also discovered a bipedal creature with tentacles for a face that tried to scare them, but Aliana killed it (she also said the “way of the righteous warrior is not for the weak-minded” or something like that).
After that, all we had to do was get the loot out. Lydia and Aliana whispered together a moment, and then told us that some legends say these green aliens are very touchy about their silver swords…almost cult-like. That certainly explained the behavior of Mikael’s “friend” – she reassessed her loyalties (and lost any fear of our numbers) when we started talking about swords.
So we agreed the safest option was to leave the silver ones here. After all, we only came here for Fetafencer…and there’s no need to go making enemies when we have plenty and to spare already. Plus, we hate to be rude house-guests.
We did take the armor, and the regular-looking magic swords, and loaded the whole pile into the docked boat (since our bags of holding didn’t work at all). Then we piloted the boat out of the fortress, collected the portable hole, and headed out to find the pool that looked into Mitrik (because Mikael really, really wanted to bring his new boat back with us…and there’s no way it would fit through Lydia’s mirror. People have asked him what he’s going to do with it, and he never has a coherent answer).
(I like to imagine the sentry in the tower getting off his shift, going back to the barracks, and then saying, “No way! I guess I’m commander now!” I personally would not react that way…but I like to think it.)
Eventually, Lydia found a pool the same color as the one we saw first…but I’m not sure it really was the same. When she stared at it, all we could see were mountains, and here and there some scrubby trees clinging to the rocks. No fields, no road, and certainly no Mitrik.
Mikael was a bit disappointed – but Ezekiel went ahead and used his spell stored on his ring to take him and Lydia (and his portable hole-tent) back to Orth.
Strange thing happened when they left. A new pool appeared where they had been floating – shimmering silver in the strange grey light of the plane. Mikael went over and stared at it, and when the surface cleared, we could see the stretch of road outside Mitrik – just like before. He figured out how to control it, just like Lydia had, and lowered it down to just above a field beside the road.
We still had a problem, though. The boat was larger than the pool – even without counting the bat-wings. While we were discussing unloading the boat and shoving all the armor and loot through the pool, Usin and Mikael decided to just try driving the boat into the pool.
As the rest of us watched (from a safe distance), Mikael steered the boat. It hit the portal, and the prow kept going – looking like Raven’s candle, like it was stretching through clear goo or something. It drifted forward, closer, closer, until the hull filled the pool completely…and then – pop – we saw the boat (and Mikael, and everything on it) on the other side, flopped in the field.
Well, with that resolved, we decided there was no reason for us to be separated…and since the pool didn’t seem to hurt Mikael, we all slipped through. It felt cold for an instant – and I staggered, while it felt as though all my insides suddenly realized “down” ought to be toward the ground.
I realize we should probably have someone adjust the pool into the air, again, so no hapless child or minstrel wanders into the Astral Plane by accident. Lydia and someone else can probably handle that. I’m sure the appearance of the second pool will give her lots to theorize about, but I’m just happy we’re home.
Ezekiel and Lydia joined us not too long afterwards, and we started moving the loot up to our rooms (Ez says we’ve been gone about a week. In some ways, it feels like it; but in other ways, it doesn’t). We were a bit delayed because we had to let Heiron lie flat on his face and kiss the grass for a good long while, but he feels better now.
Ezekiel has already asked Agnar if he would like one of the big, non-silver swords we found. Aliana says they aren’t quite her party’s “style” – and I agree two-handed weapons are a class all their own (though I might be able to handle a two-handed axe if it was the right size).
Mikael simply refuses to get down off the boat yet. He keeps walking back and forth, wearing a hat he got from who-knows-where, and saying, “Arr!” He says he wants to put wheels on it to turn it into a cart, so we can take it all the way back to Geoffe. We might need to remove the bat-wings if we were to do that.
After all of this, I still can’t think of a good wedding present for Prince Thrommel. Obviously we could give him an alien sword…but he has lots of swords, and he wouldn’t really have a use for another sword, and it feels like a lame, token gift if it’s not actually special or useful to him. Lydia will probably know just what to get him, since girls are better at that sort of thing. All of this assuming, of course, that we haven’t left already before they get married – since I think we’ve done just about everything we needed to do up here. Unless of course Ezekiel takes us on a second honeymoon.
Better see how Keom and Dree and Ronhass are doing.
Find the previous entry here.